Cubans warned to brace for economic slowdown

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, Cuba, July 28, 2008 – Cubans have been warned that rising food, oil and other commodity prices on the world market will have a trickle down effect in their country.

President Raul Castro, who urged the country’s 11 million citizens to bear in mind that all developing countries were feeling the effects of the global economic situation, said that it was something over which he had not control.

“We are living in the midst of a true world crisis which is not only economic but also related to climate change, the irrational use of energy and a great number of other problems,” he said as the country celebrated the 55th anniversary of the start of the Cuban Revolution over the weekend.

“Regardless of our great wishes to solve every problem, we cannot spend in excess of what we have.

“The revolution has done and will continue to do whatever is possible to continue to advance and reduce to the bare minimum the inevitable consequences of international crises to our people, but we must explain to our people the difficulties and thus prepare them to deal with them,” he added.

Since officially taking over power from his older brother, Fidel, in February, the president has signed two human rights agreements at the United Nations, lifted bans on Cubans staying in tourist hotels and on private ownership of mobile phones, announced plans to abandon salary equality and decreed that state-controlled farm land can be leased to private farmers and co-operatives.

It was widely expected that he would also announce new economic policies for the country, but President Castro did not. He however made pronouncements on the intention to ensure that Cuba’s defences remained strong to withstand any threat from the United States.

“Preparations to defend the country are going well. We shall continue paying special attention to defence, regardless of the results of the next presidential elections in the United States,” he said.

The Castro brothers’ first attempt, 55 years ago, to overthrow the government of the day ended in them being jailed. However, on New Year’s Day in 1959, they seized power from then leader, Fulgencio Batista.